Esther Gillam had been working for Kylee Black for a while before she began accompanying Kylee on overnight trips. Esther was part of Kylee’s ‘crew’, a new team of supports to enable Kylee to live life on her own terms.
Esther in the Netherlands
"The first trips were overnight stays in Auckland,” says Esther. “We would talk about expenses and pay rates and make sure it worked for both of us. When you already have a relationship with someone it makes it easier to figure things out.” Esther explains her role as enabling Kylee to pursue her goals and live the life she wants to, and she attributes much of the success of their working relationship to them both learning and adjusting as they went along. “Being part of the initial team that supported Kylee once she was able to personalise her support has meant that when issues arose it wasn’t confrontational, because we were all learning together,” she says.
Esther and Kylee tend to review and reflect on the way things have gone while on the way home from events or when they are in transit. “Kylee does it very naturally, asking how things are going,” says Esther.
“A strength of Kylee’s and my working relationship is being able to talk about difficult or stressful times. We don’t let it build up over time and overwhelm us. It’s an interesting balance but I try to make it a constructive conversation once things have settled rather than a reactive one at the time.”
This practice means they have honed their skills in communicating with one another when they’re at events or meetings. “It’s important for us to understand each other’s signs,” explains Esther. This allows Esther to provide timely support that appears seamless to others. It also enables them to further refine their roles and responsibilities.
Kylee also likes her supports to be an active part of her environment. “Kylee likes us to engage in conversation, not to have someone retreat onto their cell phone.” Knowing these preferences has made it easier for her crew to understand their roles.
As many of the trips are business related, prior to going away they have conversations about “expectations around what the role looks like, such as keeping records and taking notes for Kylee when she is in a meeting,” says Esther.
“We sometimes go over outfits as well,” she smiles. “When Kylee is travelling for work, being dressed professionally is important.”
The sleeping arrangements can vary. “Sometimes we stay with friends or family, other times in a hotel. We always discuss sleeping arrangements prior to leaving.”
Esther is part of a crew that provides support for Kylee. This means that there are times they need to communicate and negotiate who goes away with Kylee. “We have a diary in which we note all of Kylee’s appointments and upcoming travel. We might put a little note in the side about time off that we need and what type of away-time it is (e.g. away overseas compared to having an appointment one morning).”
As Kylee often travels out of town, the crew let each other know their availability so they can adjust what days they work in relation to the trip.
“If it doesn’t seem straightforward then we call everyone to work it out over the phone,” says Esther.
Over time Esther’s responsibilities have evolved. “Initially Kylee did most of the organisation. However, by the time we went to Europe together I was more involved and researched the transport around cities and accessibility of attractions.”
When Esther and Kylee went to Europe for a month they had another travel companion. “We used to joke about John being the pack horse,” laughs Esther. However, she underscores how helpful it was to have someone else to help with logistics and practicalities. “I could just focus on how Kylee was getting on and not always be worried about the overall logistical things.”
“Travelling with a power wheelchair meant we needed to be very organised and do lots of research beforehand, but we still had a fantastic trip. Now that I have travelled with someone that uses a wheelchair, I don’t know why I was stressed about travelling on my own in the past,” Esther says.
“Travelling as a Mycare worker has certainly made me more confident.”
To read more about Esther’s and Kylee’s trip click here.
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